The Pleasures of Private tution

I’ve never actually had private language lessons: I learned at school, at university and home on my own or in lengthy stays in the countries. So it was a new and fascinating experience to have a real life Russian Russian teacher all to myself for an hour and a half each time for three days during my stay. She is Lilia and I got to her via my son who takes advanced lessons from her via Vivalinguaplus . When I went into her room to start my first lesson -feeling excited but also a bit nervous – she started to speak to me in Russian to gauge my level and I realised that, because she was speaking slowly using simple words and cognates – cognates RULE!! – I could understand almost all she said. And so – bar a couple of times when she had to use an English term – our three lessons (total private tuition time 4 and a half hours) took place entirely in Russian. And I had her all to myself! According to my duolingo app I now “know 875 words in Russian”. I suspect I might know a few more – so imagine I know 1000 – that gave me a thousand words to reply to her and try to make myself understood to her during that time as we went through various exercises. I know I got verb and adjective endings wrong – but I also know the confidence of at least trying and being  understood – and then understanding her replies was so gratifying.

Not sure what to focus on for our three lessons, Lilia followed my son’s suggestion of studying the Russian verbs of motion. Here was the first example of how, if you know other languages, you can build on that understanding when you learn a new one. In English we say I go (on foot) or I go (by bus/ car etc) So we happily use “to go” for any means of getting from A to B. In German they make the difference between “gehen” to go on foot and “fahren” to use transport. They do this in Russian too, so I had an advantage of having encountered this concept already. THEN Lilia hit me with a new concept – and told me this is the case not only in Russian but in other slavic languages too. ( I love to learn stuff like that!) In Russian etc they also make the difference between going in one direction and going there and back – going once and going repeatedly. So there is a whole list of verbs to learn depending on if you are going once on foot somewhere or going on the plane somewhere with the intention of coming back  – or not!

These lessons me two of the key aspects important for progressing in a language: repetition and retrieval. We drilled and drilled these verbs and if I had questions or simply wanted to make a remark I had to generate the words myself (from my 875+ vocabulary) Brilliant.

But it wasn’t just the one to one tuition that enchanted me. Lilia is a linguistics graduate. She speaks some English but has understanding of the roots and structures of language, of etymology and differences in concepts. I had a great time making connections across the language tree, trying to use adjectives and nouns with the correct case and gender (although I confess at times I made random guesses to see what might happen!) and basically loving being with a like minded person.

So – are private lessons The Future? I’m back in “Peter” as they call it in April and June and if she is free I will certainly book more with Lilia. She does Skype lessons – I am interested to find out more about how these can work. Interested because, even though I use web conferencing tools all the time, I am not sure how you can do more than the conversation aspect via Skype. Do we both need a text book?  How can she mark my homework? Would she do screen-sharing? Would I? All to discover 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *